Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Conference seeks to integrate HIV/AIDS with sexual health and rights

About 500 delegates, with representatives from each of the continents and at least 20 African countries, are expected to attend the four-day conference on Sexual Health and Rights that starts at the ICC in Abuja today. One of the draw cards for the conference, titled Sexuality, Poverty and Accountability in Africa, is the inclusion of some plenary sessions on how to integrate sexual health with HIV and AIDS.

Convenor of the conference Dr Uwemedimo Esiet said that this would be one of the first forums to talk about how to integrate HIV and AIDS with sexual health and rights, and will include ‘how to’ information from prominent HIV-positive women living on the African continent. The third, bi-annual conference on sexual health is aimed at opening and deepening discussions on sexuality on the African continent with a view to assuring a sexually healthy continent, and will explore the multifaceted intersections of sexuality, poverty and accountability.

In response to media questions at a press briefing yesterday, Dr Esiet emphasised that the conference is not an investment in a big jamboree, but rather an investment in the future of Nigeria and the future of the continent. “Every time you stimulate a conversation of this nature, you out with something new,” said Dr Esiet. “This conference is not going to be something new; it is not going to be different – but it will add to our knowledge, behaviour and practices because there are many successful projects in Africa that are worth replicating.”

The conference will also deepen the integration of HIV and AIDS into sexual health, with specific sessions geared towards imparting information of the practical low down of how to achieve integration, not just advocating it.

The conference also plans to raise awareness about the continental agreement between health ministers, known as the Maputo Plan, and to call on people to hold their governments accountable for achieving the planned targets said Dr Esiet.
Cross-learning and networking will be another important outcome of the conference. “If something is working in one African country, with its unique multi-languages, multi-tribes and multi-religions, then with just a little modification it is likely to work in another African country. There is no need to reinvent the wheel,” said Dr Esiet.

* By Sharon Davis

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